MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says he plans to introduce legislation that would allow dairy farmers to hire foreign workers through a special visa program for seasonal laborers.
Leahy says he's deeply disappointed with the Department of Labor's new rules on H-2A agricultural workers.
The new labor rules will allow foreigners to work in American agricultual industries on a seasonal basis. But that does not include dairy, because dairy workers are needed on a year-round basis. And, the rules will make it more difficult for employers, since they will now have to provide evidence that they looked for U.S. citizens to fill the jobs that they are seeking H-2A permits for.
The Labor Department issued regulations that, among other things, will require growers to make a greater effort to fill crop-picking jobs with domestic workers. Thousands of foreign workers have been hired to do this work in recent years.
Farm owners have vehemently opposed changes to the H-2A Guest Worker Program since the current administration first attempted to reverse the rules last year. Growers claim the new regulations would make it more burdensome and expensive to hire foreign workers for physically grueling jobs that most Americans don't want.
The new rules, which take effect on March 15, increase the average wage for temporary farm workers by about a dollar an hour. Farm owners must also post farm jobs on a new electronic job registry to make sure domestic workers get first dibs.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.